Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, arguably the most liberal Democratic
candidate for president, has continued his long-shot mission to
grab the nomination that he mounted in 2004, with past setbacks
doing little to slow his campaign or curb his confidence.
clear-cut liberal positions have even become the stuff of good
natured ribbing on the trail. At the July CNN/YouTube Democratic
debate, the six-term congressman pointed out, "You notice what
CNN did? They didn't put anybody to the left of me."
"I'm not sure it would be possible to find anybody,"
replied host Anderson Cooper.
Despite the liberal label, Kucinich describes himself as being
in step with the American people, and he isn't shy about his unique
ideas, such as forming a Department of Peace and abolishing the
World Trade Organization.
"I'm the candidate of the mainstream," Kucinich said
in an interview with the Online NewsHour. "Many of the other
candidates reflect the old and tired ideas that are part of a
philosophy that is no longer relevant."
Now in the eight month of his second presidential campaign, Kucinich
is lagging in fund raising, ending the second quarter ahead of
only former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel. His poll numbers are no more
encouraging, but he downplays their importance.
"Polls are a function of name recognition, not a function
of whether people support your ideas," Kucinich said. "As
people become aware of my candidacy, the evidence of that support
is going to rise."
In 2004, Kucinich polled at 1 percent in the presidential primary.
He is currently back in familiar territory, polling with 1 percent
in the key states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
A longtime opponent of invading Iraq, Kucinich built his 2004
presidential campaign on being an anti-war candidate, a stance
that at the time set him apart from many of his Democratic counterparts.
This time, however, most of his competitors also are calling
for an end to the war. The difference, he said, is that he consistently
opposed the war and voted against funding, showing good judgment
when it mattered, while others have not.
"Today it is apparent that everything I said years ago,
going back to 2002, turned out to be 100 percent right,"
Kucinich said. "There is no one else who is running for president
who did the level of analysis, which proved to be totally correct,
and who led the effort opposed to the war."
He has been promoting a slogan of "strength through peace,"
and is peddling a plan to end the war in Iraq and use international
peacekeepers and security forces to fill the void left by U.S.
has turned in confident performances at debates, where his statements
on the war have earned healthy applause, but political analysts
can't seem to take him seriously.
"If there is room in the party for a candidate who channels
Ralph Nader, Peter Yarrow, and both Barneys (Frank and the purple
dinosaur), Kucinich wedged himself into the space," Time
magazine's Mark Halperin wrote in June.
When Kucinich first announced he would seek impeachment for Vice
President Cheney in April, news outlets skewered him for saying
he did not stand alone, when he was unable to recruit any other
member of Congress to cosponsor the articles.
But despite the jokes, Kucinich's push to impeach Cheney exemplifies
his willingness to stick himself out on a limb.
"We are losing our democracy to lies, to war, to debt, to
destruction of constitutional liberties," Kucinich said.
"We must change course."
His heartfelt proclamations for change have won him some well-known
supporters. Michael Moore, the maker of the recent health care
documentary "Sicko", has publicly supported Kucinich's
plan for universal, single-payer, health care.
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons told CNBC he supports Kucinich,
a fellow vegan, in his bid for the White House because of his
stance on the environment and poverty.
Kucinich advocates ratifying the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse
gas emissions and said he would push for full funding of education
for Americans from pre-kindergarten through college, paid for
with money from cuts in Pentagon spending.
Kucinich himself experienced hard times as a child. One of seven
children, he and his family were forced to live in a car on several
Though his politics are considered unconventional, he is a veteran
to the game after being elected to the Cleveland city council
at the age of 23 and then as mayor at 31 in 1977.
He lost his re-election bid after a series of unpopular decisions,
including firing the police chief live on television and refusing
to privatize the city's electric system, a decision that eventually
led the city to bankruptcy.
He has landed on lists of the worst mayors in history, but eventually
won back enough support to be elected to the House of Representatives
in 1996. His decision not to sell the electricity utility eventually
won him praise from the Cleveland City Council in 1998 for saving
It's an episode Kucinich may not look back on fondly, but he
points to his long political life as proof of his ability to lead
"When you look at the scope of my involvement I've demonstrated
both a deep understanding of international and national concerns
and I've done it strengthened by 40 years of involvement in the
civic life of my community and my country," Kucinich said.